“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
Bearing a burden is a part of living in a sin-cursed world. Burden-bearing is especially the lot of God’s people. David knew burdens. The burden he has in mind when he writes this Psalm is that of being betrayed by his son, Absalom, along with his friend, Ahithophel.
The natural way in which our sinful natures react to a burden is to fly away from them (6, 7). But God would have us respond to the burden that He is pleased to put upon us by casting it back to Him. God uses David’s experience to teach us the right way to deal with our burdens. Cast them upon Jehovah by means of prayer.
Our Given Burdens
God is pleased, in His infinite wisdom, to give burdens to all of His beloved children as long as they live in this sin-cursed world with their old man of sin. Paul informed the newly established church on his first missionary journey that “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” ().
We have physical burdens. We experience the physical burdens of every kind of disease and illness, all aches and pains in joints and muscles, the “sorrow” of child-bearing, and the burden of becoming increasingly weak and feeble as we advance in years. And there is a part of the burden of dying that is physical.
We have mental and emotional burdens. There are anxieties, worries, mental infirmities, and the improper handling of circumstances that bring on stresses and frustrations. We can have heavy concerns about work and about income when the economy slows. There are often concerns about high Christian school tuition obligations.
There are relationship burdens. Sometimes it is the burden of child-rearing, especially with children who have special needs. There is marriage strife. There is the burden of being given by God parents who are weak and sinful. Every child of God has sins committed against him. There can be the fervent but unfulfilled (as yet) desire for a mate. There is the burden of a mate who is experiencing various levels of dementia. And there is the burden of the death of a loved one.
There are sin burdens—my own sins. And there is my sinfulness, that is, my corrupt nature against which I have to struggle all my life long or that depravity that cleaves to me (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 56 and 126). There is the realization that every burden is due to our willful fall into sin with our first father, Adam.
This Psalm describes David’s way as filled with such a burden that he mourns and cries aloud. He speaks of an enemy (3) as someone who wickedly casts iniquity and hatred upon him. David’s enemy spoke evil of him (9), and others exercised themselves with violence and strife against him (11). It is very likely that David was thinking of the many in the nation who joined Absalom’s rebellion.
What made David’s burden extra heavy was that he was betrayed by one who was formerly a dear friend (12-14). The hurts occasioned by fellow saints are often more painful than those brought upon us by the ungodly. But what made David’s burden especially heavy was the fact that he knew that this rebellion by Absalom was a direct consequence of his sins with Bathsheba and Uriah. God declared that He would “raise up evil against thee out of thine own house” (cf.). This weighed heavily on David!
It is most important to note that the Hebrew word David was inspired to use for “burden” emphasizes two things. One, the burden is heavy, of a crushing weight. And, two, the burden is my lot, that is, a gift given to me. It is an appointed weight given to me by my heavenly Father. It is not a chance event or some fate. The idea is that the burden fits me. It is measured out for me by God to fit my personality and character. Each and every burden that comes my way in this life is ordained specifically for me at that time. My wise and loving Father is gifting me with each burden. It is a given burden! In all thy ways acknowledge Him!
Our Casting Prayers
Our sinful natures can react to the presence of burdens in so many wrong ways. Often believers try to handle the burden with their will-power, with mental or physical strength. They think they can handle it! Or they try to avoid the burden by flying away (cf. 6, 7). Sometimes they fly away by means of distracting pleasures. Sometimes they fly away by using alcohol or drugs. Sometimes they even fly away by killing themselves. Other times they “stuff it” inside their souls, or refuse to admit that the burden is there. Either way, they eventually end up being crushed.
God uses David’s experience to teach us how to respond correctly to our given burden. Our heavenly Father gifts us with burdens exactly so that we will cast them on Him. The ability to bear a burden arises from simply casting our burden on Jehovah.
To “cast” is to throw or hurl something. The point of emphasis is that this is an aggressive action that we carry out with urgency. Over against our holding it or dealing with it slowly or hesitantly, we are called to exercise ourselves with diligence to give it to our God.
To cast is the constant activity of praying. David implies this by speaking of his activity of praying in the Psalm. “Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication. Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint and make a noise” (1, 2). “I will call upon God” (16). “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud; and he shall hear my voice” (17). Praying is an activity of faith that looks up to our heavenly Father. Prayer makes us look away from ourselves. What needless pain we bear because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!
Casting prayer makes us look to “Jehovah,” the sovereign I Am. The One who is the Giver of the burden is the One who has established the most intimate relationship with us. And this relationship of love is completely because of His good pleasure to create it. He had no need to have such a wonderful relationship with us, but this relationship exists because He chose to establish it. Just knowing that the burden is a divinely appointed gift from Him, who loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son for us, greatly helps in bearing the burden.
We greatly ease the burden by taking it up cheerfully and joyfully. Instead of allowing the burden to distract us from loving our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength, we are to find the burdens as God-given opportunities for us to see them as His good and wise will, so that we take them up. So often we forget that our chief duty is to love our Father with our all. We are to acknowledge Him as the wise Giver, to trust His wisdom and to remain confident of His love for us personally. Realize that He is exceedingly able to do abundant good through each and every burden. This is the way that we consciously return the gift to God.
God’s Sure Answer
Jehovah always answers our burden-bearing prayers. “He shall sustain thee” is His promise, that is, He will support us, hold or bear us up, and provide for us. This tells us that God does not always remove the burden, but supports us in the bearing of it. He sustains us by reminding us that He is faithful in His love for us in Christ (I Cor. 10:13). No matter what the burden, we re-learn that of much greater weight is the greatest gift, namely, His attitude of undeserved love for us in His Son. His grace (mighty power) is sufficient. That grace ought to suffice us.
When we look at the Giver of the burden and cast the burden upon Him, then we realize that He is faithful to view us as “the righteous.” While our consciences will accuse us of our sin and sinfulness, He declares that He has justified us! We are righteous not only because our sins are taken away, but also because we are perfect in His judgment, for He has granted and imputed to us the perfect righteousness and holiness of Jesus Christ. Though we still sin and carry burdens, we “shall never… be moved.” We are never moved from election, from the blood of the cross, and from the presence of the Holy Spirit.
It is in this way that we commit ourselves to trusting Him: “I will trust in thee” (23). We trust Him to be doing all things right—exactly right! This trust is not a passive state of mind, but a vigorous act of the soul by which we lay hold on the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seems to overwhelm us. We vigorously cling to His promises of unconditional love and wisdom. And we cling to His declaration that His great purpose in gifting us with a burden is so we realize that He is refining us for our place in glory.